By Curt Macysyn
The New York Football Giants (3-9) looked in good shape to break their six-game losing streak, when Big Blue throttled the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) with a flurry of touchdowns in the first half at EverBank Field. The Giants seemed to be hitting on all cylinders, as the G-men looked to take the will away from a young Jacksonville squad by surging out to a 21-point lead.
The Jaguars fought back with two defensive touchdowns in the second half, and they came back to beat New York 25-24 on a bright, sunny day in Jacksonville. Josh Scobee converted a 43-yard field goal with 28 seconds left in the game to stun Big Blue and extend their losing streak to seven games.
Losing to a one win team would normally mean failing grades across the board, but the reality of this contest was that the Giants probably deserved a better fate. The Giants’ errors this day became fatal ones, despite the fact that they did outplay the Jaguars for large portions of the game. New York had an almost ten minute advantage in time of possession.
Some credit has to be given to the Giants’ offense because they did stake the team to a 21-point lead in the first half. Rashad Jennings ran for two touchdowns in a 21-point explosion in the second quarter that was cut to 21-3 on a 28-yard field goal by Josh Scobee with two minutes left in the half. Jennings finished the afternoon with 91 yards on 26 carries, before he left with an ankle injury. The Giants rushed for 116 yards on the ground, but they only averaged 3.3 yards per carry on the afternoon.
Andre Williams continues to run in mud for New York, as he had eight carries for 21 yards, which amounts to a paltry 2.8 yards per carry. In fact, Williams had more than half of his yards on one rushing attempt (11 yards), and he continues to run with his head down without looking for an opening. His offensive line does not open many holes, but Williams does not run to daylight either.
Mercurial receiver Rueben Randle was benched by Tom Coughlin at the beginning of the game, and Kevin Ogletree was given some looks in the early going with two catches on two targets. Randle came in later to catch three passes for 52 yards, so perhaps the benching created some urgency in his usually poor route running.
The offense was serviceable this week, but they shot themselves in the foot with two critical turnovers. Poor ball security by Eli Manning led to a forced fumble by Geno Hayes, which was recovered by linebacker J.T. Thomas III in the end zone after Rashad Jennings tried to pick up the ball to prevent the safety, cutting the Giants’ lead to 21-10.
Another Larry Donnell fumble was scooped up by Aaron Colvin for a 41-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter and a 22-21 Jaguars’ lead. Donnell had five catches fo 55 yards, but if he cannot be trusted to hold onto the football, then how can he continue to be a target in the receiving game?
Manning finished the afternoon 24-24 (71 percent) for 247 yards and a touchdown. When Manning had time in the first half, he was spot on, but when he was harried in the latter portions of the game, he was ineffective. Geoff Schwartz injured an ankle in the contest, which upset the continuity of the offensive line yet again, and James Brewer, who came in for Schwartz, was also hurt. Reserve lineman Dallas Reynolds finished at right tackle for Big Blue.
The loss cannot be pinned on the defense because the two offensive turnovers directly led to 14 points for the Jaguars. On the other hand, New York was able to retake the lead 24-22 with 3:26 remaining in the contest and was unable to hold onto it again. The Giants were done in this week by rookie quarterback, Blake Bortles, who threw for 39 yards and rushed for 31 yards on the game-winning drive. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul allowed Bortles to get to the edge for a 20-yard scamper to put the Jaguars in field goal range.
Earlier in the second half, normally reliable cornerback Zack Bowman allowed Marquise Lee to get behind him for a 30-yard touchdown that drew the Jags closer and was the team’s only offensive touchdown on the afternoon. Bortles was a pedestrian 21-35 for 197 passing yards, but most importantly, Bortles did not throw an interception. The Giants’ defense did not secure a turnover in the game, despite the fact that Bortles had come into the contest with an interception in nine straight games.
On the plus side, the Giants were able to pressure Bortles, at times, and came away with seven quarterback sacks on the afternoon. Rookie Devon Kennard had two sacks from his linebacker position, in addition to three tackles on the afternoon. Kennard is a sure tackler, and seems to understand his assignments; qualities that cannot be said about a number of his teammates on defense.
Defensive tackle Robert Ayers was held without a sack or tackle, and left the game early with a pectoral muscle injury. Linebacker Jameel McClain had nine tackles and a sack of Bortles, while cornerback Chykie Brown had seven tackles. Safety Stevie Brown had his best game of the season with six tackles and a sack on the day.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-
Kicker Josh Brown picked fine time to miss his first field goal attempt (43 yards) on the season, but it did not prove fatal, and he booted a 33-yard kick in the fourth quarter to give the Giants a short-lived 24-22 lead with three and a half minutes left in the game. His kickoffs were generally good, however, and his kickoffs caused four touchbacks in five attempts.
The Giants’ blockers could never get a hat on the Jaguars’ gunners, and thus gave dynamic Odell Beckham little chance on punt returns. Steve Weatherford was his usual reliable self with five punts for a 51.8 yard average, and he had a couple of beautiful directional kicks. The punt coverage team, unfortunately, usually has a so-so effort, and today was no different.
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Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.